Dept misled, says Sepa

Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) expressed disappointment with the Department of Environment (DOE) for approving the EIA for Sabah Forest Industries’ 40MW coal power plant in Sipitang without the participation of the public and other stakeholders.
Sepa feels that approval was given without EIA procedures being followed, said its President Wong Tack, adding it can be viewed as biased because public views and input were not sought nor interests taken into account.
“It is also misleading because Sabah DOE Director Abdul Razak claims there was NGO participation by way of the Environmental Action Committee (EAC).
“EAC is not registered nor is it an NGO. It is merely a forum (committee) bringing together the Government by way of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and environmental NGOs to meet, discuss and resolve environmental issues.
“Sepa has been told by the EAC secretariat that EAC was not involved in the EIA.” Towards this end he asked who were the consultants involved in the preparation of the EIA and how many were Sabahans.
“Were the officers representing the Government free to give their views?
What was the scientific and technological analysis used to prepare and complete the final report?,” he asked..
Wong said Sepa was shocked when Abdul Razak allegedly told the Chinese press that ‘coal-burning is no big deal, and that SFI actually is already burning coal since 2007’.
“We want him to clarify when was the DEIA conducted for coal-burning in SFI, which department issued the licence to import coal and burning of coal in the State because as far as we know, no such licence was issued, and I don’t think the Energy Commission has issued licence for coal-burning in Sabah,” Wong insisted.
Sepa would like to see the monthly monitoring reports for 2007 and 2008.
“The big question is whether the DEIA was done for the coal-fired plant, whether there are proper equipment, where the toxic ash is dumped, what emission control systems have been set up,” Wong said.
“It was even more shocking to learn that the State Government was not consulted on such a critically important environmental issue.
“In this regard Sepa appreciates the stand of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi ManjunÉwe appeal to him to continue monitoring the environmental situation in Sabah and stand for the interests of the people of Sabah.”
Masidi had said although the State accepted that DEIA on industrial matters come under Federal jurisdiction, Sabah has a very strict environmental policy and it is only proper that DOE consult the State before any final decision since it is the people of Sabah who are going to suffer the consequences and not those in Kuala Lumpur.
Not happy that the State Government was bypassed, Masidi reminded the DOE that “under normal procedure any such proposal needs to be tabled in the State Cabinet for any decision to be made on it.”
Meanwhile, the Sandakan Anti Coal-fired Power Plant Action Committee (SACPPAC) also fully supported the statement by Masidi.
It said it was well-known that the by-products of coal burning are hazardous and harmful to human beings, animals and plants.
It noted a proposal by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Sabah Electricity Board Sdn Bhd (SESB) to build a 300MW coal-fired power plant at the POIC Seguntor Sandakan.
“The proposed plant in Sandakan will be 7.5 time sbigger than the proposed plant in Sipitang,” it said and reiterated that the proposed Sandakan site was environmentally-sensitive in view of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation as well as Sepilok Rainforest Discovery.
It added that SACPPAC would continue to put pressure and is appealing for a gas-fired power plant to be set up for the east coast instead.

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